Saturday, January 21, 2012

Employee Surveillance: Does your company monitor your every move?

Companies monitor their employ activities for business purposes using multiple methods such as video surveillance, listening to telephone conversations and voice mail, location tracking using GPS, monitoring use of email, Internet, and computers, facility access and movement and review of blogs and posts on social media. Almost 80% of organization use one or more forms of monitoring through tools or manual reviews. This is done for one or more of the reasons listed below:
  • To avoid workplace law suits
  • To reduce asset thefts
  • To prevent intellectual property theft and accidental/deliberate data leakage
  • To reduce exposure to cybercriminals, sabotage or insider theft
  • To prevent corporate espionage
  • As part of regulatory or legal compliance
  • To reduce reputation damage or public embarrassment
  • To prevent lost productivity or wasted resources
  • Crisis Management
Some forms of monitoring for example timekeeping are well accepted but others like telephone monitoring may be considered invasive. Baring restrictions on under what conditions surveillance should be conducted which varies based on country/state regulations, courts do not consider on premise monitoring as an invasion of the individual’s right to privacy as long as a clear reasonable business purpose can be demonstrated. Both the Indian Constitution and Indian IT ACT provide Indian citizens the Right to Privacy but are non specific on the right of a company to monitor for legitimate business purposes.
As a best practice in employee care and to avoid law suits, most companies publish policies on the type, extent and rational behind the monitoring which is clearly communicated to employees. They also have signed employee agreements which waive an employee’s right to privacy for such monitoring. Companies have associated disciplinary policies which clearly lay down the protocol for dealing with policy violations, which vary from issuing warning letters to employment termination.
There are some extreme forms of monitoring such as trying to obtain personal records (e.g personal call records), and using detectives to trail employees and their family members. The legality of these activities is questionable, but such conditions exist when there is discord between partners in a firm with one trying to find evidence to nail the other and under conditions where a senior employee is thought to be stealing data or undertaking fraudulent/illegal activities.

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